The ACC has earned a reputation as a defensive conference, and this season it should again be the league’s strength. Even after former Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers left early for the NFL and the mass exodus of Carolina defenders to the draft, there are numerous candidates ready to help the league reload -- starting in Chapel Hill.
Defensive end Quinton Coples, who racked up 15.5 tackles for losses and 10.0 sacks and earned first-team All-ACC honors playing at tackle, should only be better at his natural position of end. Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly was a unanimous All-America selection as a sophomore and led the country in tackles (183). He also had three interceptions, three fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles, 10.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks.
Virginia Tech cornerback Jayron Hosley led the nation with nine interceptions, and Florida State defensive end Brandon Jenkins had 21.5 tackles for loss, 13.5 sacks -- and he hasn’t reached his full potential yet. As a safety, Maryland’s Kenny Tate had 100 tackles and a league-high four forced fumbles. ACC offenses should fear what he’ll do as a hybrid safety/linebacker.